Platinum-based chemotherapy for first-line treatment of metastatic urothelial cancer is typically administered for a fixed duration followed by observation until progression. “Switch maintenance” therapy with PD-1 blockade at the time of chemotherapy cessation may be attractive for mechanistic and pragmatic reasons.
Patients and methods
Patients with metastatic urothelial cancer achieving at least stable disease on first-line platinum-based chemotherapy were enrolled. Patients were randomly assigned double-blind 1:1 to switch maintenance pembrolizumab 200 mg intravenously once every 3 weeks versus placebo for up to 24 months. Patients with disease progression on placebo could cross over to pembrolizumab. The primary objective was to determine the progression-free survival. Secondary objectives included determining overall survival as well as treatment outcomes according to PD-L1 combined positive score (CPS).
Between December 2015 and November 2018, 108 patients were randomly assigned to pembrolizumab (n = 55) or placebo (n = 53). The objective response rate was 23% with pembrolizumab and 10% with placebo. Treatment-emergent grade 3-4 adverse events occurred in 59% receiving pembrolizumab and 38% of patients receiving placebo. Progression-free survival was significantly longer with maintenance pembrolizumab versus placebo (5.4 months [95% CI, 3.1 to 7.3 months] v 3.0 months [95% CI; 2.7 to 5.5 months]; hazard ratio, 0.65; log-rank P = .04; maximum efficiency robust test P = .039). Median overall survival was 22 months (95% CI, 12.9 months to not reached) with pembrolizumab and 18.7 months (95% CI, 11.4 months to not reached) with placebo. There was no significant interaction between PD-L1 CPS ≥ 10 and treatment arm for progression-free survival or overall survival.
Switch maintenance pembrolizumab leads to additional objective responses in patients achieving at least stable disease with first-line platinum-based chemotherapy and prolongs progression-free survival in patients with metastatic urothelial cancer.